May 11, 2013

Deception in art & architecture

My favorite artist growing up was M.C. Escher. I loved how he created images that manipulated conceptions of time and space. This one in particular capture my imagination the most. Seemingly in balance and chaos, Escher deceptively conveys the one my core belfies: "all art is deception." I chose the impossible triangle for a similar reason. Like a mobius strip it is endless but from a different perspective the architecture reveals itself as false and a mere mirage  This journey of deception led me to the past. I came across photographs of Stanford in 1906. Today, it's hard to imagine these powerful structures once existed in the places there shadows now stand. In way it seems as if the earthquake of 1906 stifled our ambition.

March 29, 2013

Why cameras are one of the most profound inventions ever

(Updated May 3)
A few days ago I started to think about cameras, an amazing invention that we take for granted in our daily lives.

Think for a second about what a camera allows us to do...The first time someone took a photo was the first time we got to time travel.
The First Photo Ever Taken
Like telescopes, cameras are time-machines! Cameras give us the ability to capture a moment in history and save it forever. Before that moment, before that picture it was all he-say-she-say.

Never before could one capture such an accurate representation of the past. Moreover, as camera technology has improved, the clearer we saw the past, our memories, our history. How powerful is that! That to me is why cameras are arguably the greatest invention. 

Cameras as a foundation
Cameras are also a foundational technology. Today we have video, a collection of images and computers which allow us to digitally alter the past and allow others to interact with our own moments in history--things written about in George Orwell's 1984.

Augmented Reality

How will experiences like Google Glass and Epiphany Eyewear--the ability to capture every moment of your life--change how we interact--with each other, with the past? Imagine being able to relive moments of your childhood, the great idea you had but forgot in the morning, or the best night of your life! Will it change how we pursue our aspirations in the future or distract us from them?

December 29, 2012

A Letter to A Friend

Originally posted on the QuestBridge Scholars Network blog: A Letter to A Friend

Off on an Adventure

Half out of breath, I ran through the doors, threw my bag in the scanner and walked through the metal detector. As I grabbed my bag, the bell rang.

I was late for school.

I went to inner city public school. A place where drugs and gang violence took precedence over education. But it wasn't all bad. The teachers were there to teach and if you were willing to learn, you learned--so that's what I did.

My school offered three Advanced Placement courses. That's it. But I took them. Moreover, due to recent budget cuts, we had fewer and fewer extracurricular activities.

During my junior year of high school, I figured out what I wanted to do as career. Hours of watching Discovery Channel, Eureka and popular Sci-Fi movies had convinced me that I wanted to be a scientist or engineer. I wanted to change the world.

I didn't have the slightest idea of how I was going to get there, but that year I was determined to change that.

In December of 2010, I emailed Mr. Kaylor who runs the robotics club at the High School of Engineering and Science (E&S). I told him about my interest in science and inquired about joining the robotics club at E&S.

Mr. Kaylor welcomed me to stop by for their next meeting.

Even then I was apprehensive at first. With my high school being two buses and a train ride away from E&S, it would be long after dark by the time I arrived home. But I was off on an adventure. So with a Google Map in hand, I took the hour and a half trek to E&S.

When I arrived, it was snowing so I was even more eager to get inside. As I walked into the room, Mr. Kaylor welcomed me in, and partnered me with a fellow student and the two of us began building a robot from a LEGO robotics kit. At the end of our meeting we put the myriad pieces back into the kit and stored our robot. As I walked out into the snow, Mr. Kaylor stopped me. He said, “If you were willing to come all this way, I want to loan you this kit.” I smiled and gladly accepted his offer.

My spontaneous adventure that day turned into an odyssey when the Principal at my school gave me permission to leave early on Tuesdays and Thursdays so I could attend the robotics club at E&S. Since then, I have developed an intense passion for robotics and I have in turn funneled that passion into my robotic projects. What has been even more rewarding is my enrollment at E&S, for my senior year, and election as President of the robotics club.

My College Search

When I began my college search, I looked for somewhere I could continue to explore, create, and develop the skills that are imperative for a 21st century scientist and engineer. Not surprisingly, Stanford was at the top of that list.

Despite all of this, when senior year came around, I felt I was at a disadvantage when applying to college. My parents hadn't gone and neither had theirs. Because of that I didn't know much about the college application process.

Then I found out about QuestBridge, a non-profit organization that helps students from low-income backgrounds better understand the application process as well as inform them of the the resources and opportunities available to them.

I applied to Stanford through their Common App and Supplement and QuestBridge’s National College Match. Compared to the applications of most colleges, Stanford’s really stood out. I got the sense they wanted to admit me for who I was--that I wasn’t just another statistic.

Most of my application I spent explaining the hardships and challenges I have faced. However, the combination of information from my QuestBridge application and Stanford supplements allowed me to paint a fuller picture of myself. I was able to show not just the child who suffered the loss of his mother, a boy who does not know his father, or the young man who endured homelessness with his sister, but the product of those experiences: the joking, little-big-kid still here smiling because he has overcome all those things.

Yes the one that talks in memes, learned how to breakdance on YouTube, can make a ‘mean’ Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich, solve a Rubik's cube in less than a minute, and the one who knows the value of hard work and perseverance and that he must make the most of every opportunity.

Ultimately, whatever it is, just be yourself.

Something Unexpected

When March came around, I was anxious to say the least. I had waited six months. SIX MONTHS. No likely letters--nothing.


Be yourself??? What the hell was I thinking?!

But then something unexpected happened.

Originally, Stanford admission decisions were to be released on Sunday, April 1st. However, rumors started to spread that they would be released early.

On my bus ride home, I checked facebook. On my news feed, a friend of mine posted that decisions were being released soon. Wanting more certainty, I went to where any sane person would go: Google.

As the evidence piled in, my heart and head began to pulsate; my palms began to sweat and, as the bus made its first stop, my mind began to race.

By the time I got home, the admission decisions had been released. Shortly after I turned on my computer, my best friend called me wondering if I got in or not. As I signed into my email, I saw it: “Your Stanford Admission Decision.” For a moment, I stared blankly at the screen.

By then I learned that if I didn’t see “congratulations” within the first-two lines I didn’t get in, so when I opened the email my eyes feverishly searched for that magical 15 letter word. And on the first line they found it.

I had been accepted.

As my left ear deafened from my friends scream, I smiled in bliss.

A week later, I received my package from Stanford. Along with my acceptance letter was a quote that I really took to heart:

“We applaud you... for all the times you stayed up late to get it right; practiced, rehearsed, and gave it your all; studied something because you loved it, not because it would be on the test; took a risk instead of following the easy path; volunteered your time, talent and energy.”

Tell Your Story

As the first in my family to go to college and as a QuestBridge Scholar I have learned a lot. Above all, I have learned that everything is relative, especially when it comes to the college application.

No I don’t have a 2400 SAT score, I’m not a world class athlete, and I don't have my own business. But what I do have is an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, an unfettered will to learn and challenge myself and most importantly I have a story. My story.

Tell your story. Be you. That’s what matters. Show how you have grown and matured. Why you love doing what you do. And whether your school offers every AP or zero, challenge yourself and pursue what you love because in the end it will be worth it.

Ultimately, no college is worth sacrificing yourself and who are in the process, so stay true to yourself.

October 31, 2012

My Letter To The President

About a month ago I wrote a letter to the President thanking him for what he's done for me and this country. This video is about my troubles, triumphs, where I am now, and how the President and his education initiatives helped me get there. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

October 20, 2012

My life at Stanford so far!

Hey everyone, 
Sorry for the hiatus!
Anyways, let me update you on my college experience so far.

 So...I've been here (Stanford) for four weeks! Wow that was fast :o! But I love it. The weather, the people, the classes! Yes the classes too..for now :p

I'm taking Computational Mathematics for Engineers CME for short. More specifically CME 100 which is vector calculus for engineers. This course is epic. Week one I learned how Google Search utilizes vectors in hyper-dimensional space to cast search nets. MIND = BLOW :D

I'm also in CS106B which is Programming Abstractions at Stanford. This quarter it's taught by the amazing and animated Jerry Cain who I met at SSEA (Stanford Summer Engineering Academy).

My last class is Thinking Matters 9: Technological Visions of Utopia. YES! Even my humanities class is techie :D My course it co-taught by Rob Robinson and Eric Roberts. Eric Roberts is basically a god in CS. He wrote the freaking book. Literally. Anyways the course is amazing. We look into the way technology influences society and how to prevent technology from going haywire by reading literally works like Brave New World, Snow Crash, 1984 and the like!

 More awesome news: I'm starting the robotics club at Stanford. that's right: we don't have one...YET! More news on that in my next post...

May 26, 2012

First Day on The Job

First day at the GRASP Lab and it was awesome!!!

I had a conversation with Dr. Vijay Kumar (he gave this really cool TED Talk) and then was tasked with solving a problem in Computer Vision known as 2-d mosaic modeling. The idea is to stitch images together to create a 2-d map of the environment...Now to develop the software for the quadrotorz lol

May 12, 2012

Meeting of the Minds at UPenn's GRASP Lab

Yesterday I attended a round table discussion about the future of robotics education and online learning at the University of Pennsylvania. The discussion featured notable TED Talk speaker Vijay Kumar, other Penn and GRASP Lab faculty, and local HS robotic club mentors. I was there to share my personal experience with robotics and online education.

The bulk of the discussion was focused on utilizing online education to bring robotic education to high school students. One of the goals of this proposed initiative is to teach math and science in a hands on way using robotics. After leaving the meeting, I'm optimistic about the initiative and hope that this really begins to take shape.

Exploring the Cosmos

I'm really passionate about space and space exploration so when I found this stuff I had to share!

A trip to the edge of the Universe and back.

If that got you excited, feat your Eyes on the Solar System!

This is a 3-D environment full of real NASA mission data. Explore the cosmos from your computer. Hop on an asteroid. Fly with NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft. See the entire solar system moving in real time. It's up to you. You control space and time.

How to forward your Stanford webpage to your blog/website

Step 1. Login into AFS (will come back to this)
Step 2. Open up Notepad on your computer
Step 3. Copy and paste the following code into Notepad and substitute your info in (where bolded):
RedirectMatch Permanent ~yoursunetid.*
Step 4. Click Save As and save the file as All type and name it .htaccess (nothing before or after. just ".htaccess")
Step 5. Click over to AFS again (See Step 1)
Step 6. Click on the WWW directory
Step 7. Upload the .htaccess file to the WWW directory (see the left corner under Actions)
Step 8. Celebrate! Your should now redirect to your website or blog

May 11, 2012

ROBOT-C for Arduino

ROBOT-C just released a public beta for Arduino!!
Check out the original post here:

The Beta now supports the Arduino UNO micro-controller which allows me to mess around more freely with mine....Some interesting projects to come hopefully!